Hi everyone, I'll be heading up to Europe in about a months time starting from Vienna, to Munich then up to Paris before departing from London. I'm actually hoping I could purchase a JLC Master Control (the base model version) somewhere along the line but I do have a few questions:- 1. If I were to purchase the watch from the JLC boutique in Champ Elysees and reclaim the VAT from one of those VAT processing counters in the nearby area, do I have to redeclare it again when I cross into England? 2. Alternatively if I reclaimed the VAT before departing from Heathrow, will I still be eligible for an on the spot refund in cash bearing in mind that I bought it in Paris? I'm just wondering as a relative of mine mentioned that their VAT was never processed and their queries to the processing firm was never replied (I'm not 100% clear on the details but it may perhaps be due to their amount claimed didn't exceed the threshold...who knows...) 3. To reclaim at VAT at heathrow, is it required to have all the packaging with you? Thanks for any responses in advance, I've been saving up over 2 years now for the watch.... so hopefully the time will come soon when I relegate my seiko quartz to "beater" status....
I just got back from Europe so here is the run down on VAT. Assumptions based on your information:
Your point of departure from EU is London Heathrow
You will purchase your JLC from Paris
Based on this information, when you purchase your watch in Paris, ask the Paris JLC boutique to issue you with a full set of VAT refund documents. They will need your name, resident country address and your passport number (although this is not essential as you can fill this in before you submit your forms). Upon completion of your transaction, they will issue you with a VAT reclaim form with the retailer stamp and documentation along with the receipt. For convinience ask them to staple the receipt to your claim form. When you are departing the EU, from London Heathrow, you have a number of options DEPENDING on which terminal you are leaving from. If you are using TERMINAL 3, you have two options to claim your VAT: 1) Before you check in and go through immigration, typcially this is for bulky items that are required to be checked-in either for security reasons or personal convinience or 2) After you past you've checked in and passed immigration, for hand carry items (and electronic goods). NOTE: If you decide on option 1) for whatever reason (your wife / girlfriend buys a tonne of shoes, etc), the queue for the VAT refund BEFORE check-in can be very long, up to an hour sometimes, so if you plan to do this then add an additional hour to your schedule. Believe me, you don't want to reach the airport within an hour before your flight departs, so get there early. I cannot stress this point enough, if you are going to pursue option 1. For both options, you will need the goods with you but not the packaging. For your watch, I suggest that you retain your warranty card and receipt but you can check in the box. From my experience, they don't scrutinise the items very closely. The claim process for option 1 differs slightly from option 2. The first difference other than the check in, is that the reclaim at this point can be issued either as a cash refund in your preferred currency or on your credit card. This counter process both options for you. Cash refund is immediate at whatever prevailing exchange rate that Travelex will give you, so I suggest you take the cash in the currency of purchase and exchange it at the going exchange rate in your home country. A cash refund also has a small administration fee of about 2.5GBP. Alternatively, they will process your refund on-the-spot to your credit card and this takes 4 to 5 weeks. If you take option 2, you then proceed to check-in and then through to customs and immigration. At Terminal 3, the VAT counter is a Travelex branch on your right hand side just before the main duty free shopping centre. But be aware, there is a catch. DO NOT queue at the Travelex VAT counter because you need Customs to stamp your VAT forms. This counter is located on the left as you approach the duty free shopping stores or opposite the Travelex branch. Its a little hidden as there was some renovation while I was there (16 April 2011). Look for a CUSTOMS sign. Customs will inspect your boarding pass, passport and inspect your goods. Once they stamp your form you can now go to the Travelex counter to claim your cash refund, as above. However, they will not do a credit card refund. If you want this option, you need to insert the VAT forms with the receipt into the postage paid envelop that comes with the form and drop it in a mail box next to the Travelex counter. This will be processed when the VAT refund company gets the forms and then four to five weeks after that. Another point to note, VAT is now 20%. However, if you go through all of this, your total refund after administration fees will only be between 11% to 13%!!! Of course, I haven't accounted for any importation tax when you arrive home. I assume you will declare but the ball is in your court there. However, there is an alternative to all of this. Instead of buying direct from the boutique, you can call them in advance of purchase, regardless of where you are but as long as you are not in person. Tell them you would like to purchase the watch and ask them if they will complete the transaction over the phone using your credit card and then ship the watch to you. If they did this, you get the FULL 20% refund as they will just bill you the ex-VAT price. They may or may not charge you shipping, which may end up being about the same rate of 11% to 13% refund once shipping cost is taken into account. However, the watch boutiques that I have dealt with within the Richemont Group, have always extended complementary shipping to me. This is no different from buying EU items over the internet as its up to the retailer to charge the VAT. Some additional considerations: 1) You noted that your flight home is from Paris to London then home. Is this a proper stop over where you have to clear customs at Heathrow? If not, is the transit short, say 60 minutes or less? If its less than 60 minutes, it is unlikely that you will have time to actually achieve option 2 as I've outlined above. This is because Paris flights will come in at Terminal 5 and you'll need to transit to Terminal 1,2 or 3 for your international home flight. This is worst if you are coming in from Gatwick. In this case, you are better taking my alternative suggestion and ask JLC to ship the watch to you. If this is a proper stop over, then you'll have time. The reason for all of this is that the customs that is resposible for checking your goods is your final port of call before leaving EU, regardless if that port is a transit port. In your case, its London Heathrow. 2) There may be a loop hole in that, you can ask JLC to bill you the export price and ship the box but you take the watch with you. I have personally never tried this approach but intuitively, it may work. 3) Regarding VAT thresholds, in London, its as little as 25GBP purchase per receipt excluding food and accomodation. In Italy, this threshold is EU170 per single receipt. Not sure what France's is but it may be similar to Italy. After all of this, what is your best options? I'd suggest you inspect the watch and discuss your options with JLC including the scenario of you buying the watch at export price and having them ship it to you or shipping just the box. Failing that, I'd suggest getting a cash refund in Euro so you can have better control over the currency exchange, if you can be bothered. Sorry for a long winded post. G
Thanks heaps gazman. It's really been generous of you to detail this much info. I'll try to give the JLC branch a call after the easter break. I'm also curious that when you mention them (the JLC boutique) mailing the watch to me, I suppose you meant mailing the watch to my country of residence? Hopefully I can iron something out with them. I'll actually be travelling from Munich to Paris to London via train as I do enjoy train rides quite a bit. It kinda has that rather leisurely paced feeling. I will be in london for slighly less than a fortnight. So I'm hoping I could commission a bespoke shoe or two while there. And I'll be departing from Heathrow to Sydney with Etihad... which I think departs from Terminal 4.... I've studied their map and it looks like they have a VAT refund counter near the check-in. And the T4 travellex is somewhere on the 1st floor after clearing security. Hopefully they operate the same way. Once again, thanks for the heads up and advice on the VAT process..